This column was published in the Tri-Valley Herald in January 2006.
Just after 2 o’clock in the morning on November 13, 1993, Pam Yeaw woke up screaming.
She didn’t know why she screamed, but she couldn’t get back to sleep.
Then, a few hours later, the phone rang.
Her 21-year-old son, Darren Quin, had been in an alcohol-related car accident near Pinecrest Lake in the Sierra Nevada.
He and two friends had been driving along an icy, two-lane road when the car spun out of control and flipped over.
“The accident happened about 2 in the morning—right when my mom screamed,” said Quin, who took a break from his job in Pleasanton to reflect on the accident that forever changed his life. “And it happened on her birthday.”
Just after impact, Quin said he became conscious long enough to realize that his friends had escaped from the car uninjured.
He was not so lucky.
“I was hanging upside down in the passenger seat and couldn’t move any of my extremities,” he said. “Then I lost consciousness.”
Waking up a few days later in a hospital, surrounded by friends and family, Quin learned he was paralyzed from the neck down.
“After realizing I couldn’t perform a task as simple as scratching my nose, I questioned why I had to wake up,” he said.
In spite of his intense initial fears, Quin became hopeful as he regained some use of his arms after months of rehabilitation.
What was most encouraging, though, was the positive time he was spending with his family.
“This was a complete turnaround from before the accident when I had almost daily confrontations with my parents,” he said.
Every time he showed any sign of wanting to give up, a family member would be there to support him. “More times than not that someone was my mother,” he said.
After months of therapy and learning to get around in his wheelchair, Quin began attending classes at Las Positas College. The Rotary Club of Pleasanton North raised funds to purchase a van fitted with equipment that enabled Quin to drive in spite of his paralyzed legs.
Then one evening a few years after the accident, Quin was browsing the Internet when he noticed a young woman had logged on to AOL Instant Messenger.
“I sent her a message,” Quin said, smiling. “Turns out that evening she had just been stood up for a date.”
Quin and Stefanie Dimotakis began dating. They fell in love, and in 1999 Quin moved to Davis to be with her as she finished her degree at U.C. Davis.
The couple eventually moved to Modesto and bought a home. As Quin took classes in graphic design at Modesto Junior College, Dimotakis earned her teaching credential at California State University, Stanislaus.
Today Dimotakis teaches kindergarten at Cunningham Elementary in Turlock, and Quin commutes to Pleasanton where he does graphic design for Allegra Print and Imaging.
Leaning forward in his wheelchair, his brown eyes shining, Quin conveys a certainty about his life that is unexpected in a C6-C7 quadriplegic who has been dealt a brutal hand in life.
This is because his story is about more than keeping your chin up or rediscovering family or finding love.
Quin’s story is about choosing to embrace life’s offerings.
“It’s not often that someone can look back on a disastrous situation and realize it was fortunate,” he said.
Quin explained that before the accident, along with the ongoing conflicts with his parents, he was having frequent run-ins with law enforcement, and his future looked bleak.
“The road I was headed down was in dire need of a detour,” he said. “In fact, that curvy, rural highway wound up being the deviation I so desperately needed.”